Will anticipation kill The Force Awakens?

Star Wars fans waited in anticipation. The trailer for the new Star Wars film, The Phantom Menace, was going to premiere in theaters. First, rumors spread that the trailer would be attached to Wing Commander, also a 20th Century Fox film. Then, the rumors, and later confirmed reports, placed it in front of Meet Joe Black.

The anticipation for this new trailer in November of 1998 was huge. I went to see Wing Commander hoping to see the trailer. Instead, I saw a bunch of trailers to movies I didn’t care about. And I had to watch Wing Commander.

Phantom Menace Darth Maul

In retrospect, Darth Maul was still a badass!

As a New York Times article reported at the time, people bought tickets to Meet Joe Black, watched The Phantom Menace trailer, and left before Brad Pitt ever walked on screen. Also, the response to the trailer was incredibly positive.

Now, of course, everyone says they knew The Phantom Menace would stink – a sentiment I still don’t exactly agree with. The Phantom Menace is a weak film, but still has a lot to offer. Roger Ebert wrote a very positive review of the film, stating:

What [George Lucas] does have, in abundance, is exhilaration. There is a sense of discovery in scene after scene of “The Phantom Menace,” as he tries out new effects and ideas, and seamlessly integrates real characters and digital ones, real landscapes and imaginary places. We are standing at the threshold of a new age of epic cinema, I think, in which digital techniques mean that budgets will no longer limit the scope of scenes; filmmakers will be able to show us just about anything they can imagine.

And while it’s easy to look at Rotten Tomatoes and see all the negative reviews, most of them are in hindsight. A review written a decade after The Phantom Menace has its value, but it fails to represent the zeitgeist of the era in which The Phantom Menace was released. Looking back at the reviews featured on Rotten Tomatoes, a pattern emerges, especially in reviews from the time the film was released, the mixed reviews included some that hated the film and others that loved the film.

Kylo Ren the force awakens star wars

You see Darth Maul had a double-edged light saber. Kylo Ren has a broad-sword-style light saber. Originality has no end!

Yet, here we are again, 16 years after The Phantom Menace. The Force Awakens, the first Star Wars film made without the input of George Lucas, is being released in a few weeks. Fans on YouTube and on online forums have praised the trailers. The anticipation grows. Many fans have said this will finally wash the bad taste of the prequels out humanity’s collective consciousness. However, I believe fan reaction will be similar to the prequels. At first, there will be excitement. Then, derision.

I worry that fan expectation will ruin the new Star Wars films.

Star Wars has become something bigger than a series of movies, with books, comics, toys, video games, and pajamas attached. It has become a religion for many. Fans have built an expectation of what they individually believe Star Wars should be. If Jesus came back today, would he be accepted by the gun-worshiping conservatives, who out of one side of their mouth worship him as the Prince of Peace, yet walk around fanning the flames of violence? Or would Jesus, who taught that the Jewish law would last forever, be accepted by liberal Christians who believe in multiple paths to God? The point is this – Star Wars cannot please all fans. Many, nearly all, fans I read on the Internet, say the new movies need to be more adult because Star Wars needs to mature with them as they get older.

Bullshit! Are fans who discovered Star Wars in the late 80s or early 90s really saying that Star Wars needs to mature at the rate they mature? I was there, May 1977, at my local theater. I was eight and wanted to see this new movie. It was like a born again experience when that little ship was chased by that gigantic triangular star ship. For me to say that Star Wars needs to be in line with my near-50 mentality and exclude everyone else is a sign of religious zeal and not a love of the films.

And for those who somehow think Rogue One is going to be the adult Star Wars film, I have one word: Disney.

I appreciate the anticipation for The Force Awakens. I’m not writing this to say that I think it will be bad. I like a lot of what I’ve seen in the trailers. I want it to be an amazing experience. However, it is being made by Disney, which is mainly in the business of branding. And the signs are there that this is a film made to meet “fan” expectation. Nearly every scene in the trailers mirrors something from the original trailer. Hell, the poster shows that we are getting a new, improved Death Star. It was good enough for two movies, why not three? Screw originality!

And I like J.J. Abrams, but his theatrical films have been derivative at best. Mission Impossible III was good, but it was a sequel. His Star Trek films run from the very entertaining, but stupid, first film and the atrocity that is Star Trek into Darkness. Neither film had much respect for the 40-plus years fans had invested in the characters. Elements like Khan and tribbles were thrown in, not to please fans, but because the general population knows those things, and not much else. As a matter of fact, both of Abrams’ Star Trek films demonstrate a clear disrespect for fans, who don’t represent enough money to cater to, and the general public, which the films seems to believe are too shallow to want any real emotions in their movies.

But, in his defense, Abrams had little to do with the writing on those films. In the special features for Star Trek into Darkness, he seems professional about the process of making the film, yet never shows a real enthusiasm toward the series. With the Star Wars series, he seems more involved, not just as a filmmaker, but as someone who loves the galaxy far, far away.

I sympathize with the anticipation fans are showing toward the new Star Wars films. As fans, we have been told almost nothing about the new film. I hope everyone involved knocks it out of the park, pleasing critics, fans, and kids.

And by the way, if you are not watching Star Wars Rebels, why not? The animated series is pure Star Wars, yet introduces new concepts and ideas. It’s geared toward a young audience, pre-teens and early teens, yet has compelling stories, great action, and wonderful characters. At 47, should I be embarrassed that I’m watching something on Disney XD? I don’t think so. It sucks me into the adventure every time. Hopefully The Force Awakens will do the same.

©  Paul George and The Reno Signal, 2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Paul George and The Reno Signal with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.
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Have faith in this ‘Creed’

creed poster michael b jordan sylvester stalloneWhen I originally heard about Creed, I thought it represented one trip too many to the well of the Rocky legacy. Rocky Balboa, the sixth film, was a powerful, heartfelt film that book-ended the Rocky series with a quiet, but sweet note.

Do we really need a movie about the illegitimate son of Apollo Creed following in his father’s footsteps?

Yes, dammit, we do!

The film begins with a young Adonis Johnson in juvenile detention. After a fight, he’s locked up in a cell. He is visited by a woman, who Adonis, along with the audience, learn is Mary Ann Creed, the widow of Apollo Creed. Creed, we learn, had an affair, got Adonis’ mother pregnant, and then died in his match with Ivan Drago before Adonis’ birth. Mary Ann takes young Adonis into her home. Adonis grows up, but finds life in a nine-to-five office job to be unsatisfying.

He leaves his cozy home in Los Angeles and moves to Philadelphia. It is there he tracks down Rocky Balboa, asking him to train him. Balboa politely refuses, but Adonis is persistent. Eventually, Rocky, who seems to have given up on life after the death of his wife Adrian and his brother-in-law Paulie, begins training the young man.

Creed is about fighting for what you want in life. Adonis is fighting a life of privilege that his father’s name gives him. He struggles to become a fighter on his own terms, without the Creed name attached. Michael B. Jordan (Chronicle, Fantastic Four) shines in his portrayal of Adonis. He’s likable, even when he acts like a jerk. He’s flawed, yet has a determination to succeed.

Rocky Balboa has his struggles too, with Stallone giving an Oscar-worthy performance as an old fighter ready to give up on life. Stallone knows this character and it shows. There are scenes where the sadness in Rocky’s eyes betray the tough-guy exterior. And the movie focuses much of its time on the developing relationship between Rocky and Adonis. Rocky is not simply shoehorned into the script to make it a Rocky film.

The supporting cast is excellent. Tessa Thomson plays Bianca, Adonis’ downstairs neighbor, who plays her music too loud. She is Adonis’ Adrian, but a much more assertive, confident woman. She too has a fight in her life as she is progressively losing her hearing, which makes being a musician a challenge.

And then there’s Phylicia Rashad. She only has a few scene in the movie as Mary Ann Creed, but it’s great to see her again so many decades after The Cosby Show. She too fights with her feelings over Adonis entering the boxing ring, fearing the loss of another loved one.

Director and co-writer Ryan Coogler (Fruitvale Station) brings a strong visual style with a focus on the characters. Coogler knows there are aspects of the Rocky movies that work, and he brings those to the forefront, adding his own ideas to the mix. The film’s runtime is 133, minutes. It felt much shorter. Coogler knows when to give his characters some breathing room to grow and when to have some action.

Because, honestly, I really enjoyed these characters, in and out of the ring. I cared about Adonis’ struggle. I wanted to see Rocky get out of his funk. I wanted to see Adonis and Bianca grow as a couple. By the fight at the end of the film, I was fully invested in the lives of these people. Creed is excellent, better than it had any right to be.

©  Paul George and The Reno Signal, 2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Paul George and The Reno Signal with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

 

 

 

Presenting Infecto!

infectoImmunize Nevada is a “coalition of individual, business and organization partners committed to improving and protecting the health of children, teens, adults & seniors in Nevada,” according to its website.

A friend of mine on Facebook who works for the advertising agency handling Immunize Nevada, posted a picture of the blue germ above and offered a $25 Amazon gift card to whoever came up with the best name for this mascot, who will appear in videos and promotional materials.

I saw some of the entries on Facebook and, while very clever, were incredibly long or too tied into other well-known intellectual properties.

I came up with Infecto, which won, I believe because of its simplicity. I’m happy to help out.

So what did I spend my $25 Amazon gift card on? I picked up Shout Factory‘s excellent blu-rays of Escape from New York and the Roger Corman “classic” Death Race 2000.


©  Paul George and The Reno Signal, 2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Paul George and The Reno Signal with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.


Wood hands at the Lear

Lear theater Reno wooden hands

The Lear Theater is about a block away from my apartment on 1st Street and Ralston in Reno, Nevada. After years of inactivity, I’m glad to see it finally being used.

When they put up these giant wooden hands, however, I couldn’t help but laugh a little. It looks like they are about ready to grope a giant set of wooden breasts.

Strange things amuse me. I’m a very, very lonely man.

Michael Lucido’s raccoon fort invades downtown Reno

Michael Lucido raccoon downtown renoLet me start this post by saying that I’m back in Reno and I couldn’t be happier. I spent the last ten months in Massachusetts and endured one of the worst winter’s on record. An aspect of Reno I missed is the City’s interest in local artists and businesses.

As I walked past 1st and Arlington, heading to get a cup of coffee, I saw this artwork by Mike Lucido, which he has titled Raccoon Fort. It’s a three-sided painting, apparently commissioned by the city of Reno, featured on a city power box (or whatever it is).

I vaguely recall Radcliff Raccoon’s political run for Reno’s Trash and Sewer Connoisseur.

Michael Lucido raccoon downtown reno 3My son, 15, and I walk past Raccoon Fort frequently, and it always gets a smile out of both of us. Lucido’s style, not that I’m an expert, is rooted in a cartoon style, reminding me a lot of old-school Warner Bros. — especially Tex Avery and Robert McKimson. And I can’t help but see some John Kricfalusi tossed into the mix. But then, I’m a John K. fan, so I think of Ren & Stimpy when I’m watching Interstellar.

This simple piece of art reminds me why I enjoy Reno.


©  Paul Anthony George and The Reno Signal, 2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Paul Anthony George and The Reno Signal with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.